Joe Sunday always figured his life would end violently. After all, when your occupation is thug for hire to a mid-level mafioso things tend to get pretty nasty at times, even if you are working the glamour filled streets of L.A., not the mean streets of New York or Chicago.
What he couldn’t possibly have realized, however, was that when he finally was killed, well, that he wouldn’t stay dead.
Sunday does realize something is very wrong with his latest assignment, especially when the guys his boss previously sent out on the job either turned up dead or not at all. So when he and his partner, Julio, fail in their attempt to obtain the specific item they were sent to retrieve – a gemstone of indeterminate origin – he figures at least they’re ahead of the game by still being alive. That is until Julio unexpectedly, and quite violently, kills himself in front of Sunday.
When Sunday seeks answers from his boss, he’s informed that the man they tried to steal the stone from has been alive for far longer than should be possible, especially since Sunday’s boss claims to have personally killed him decades ago. The stone isn’t a jewel, he tells Sunday, but an ancient object that has the power to grant immortality. Riiight. Just as Sunday’s about to write off his boss as a couple of fries short of a Happy Meal, he gets a frantic call from Julio’s widow asking for Joe’s help. Seems Julio is home and acting odd. Considering Sunday just watched Julio kill himself only hours ago, he finds that quite odd indeed.
Welcome to author Stephen Blackmoore’s L.A., the City of the Lost, a place where the magic that occurs isn’t accomplished by computer geeks in the offices of Industrial Light & Magic or Pixar.
No, as Sunday’s plunged into a race to obtain the coveted stone, which has gone missing, he discovers there’s magic everywhere as he finds himself pitted against a ruthless former Nazi doctor turned wizard, a bewitching femme fatale with unknown motives, a brassy young bruja (witch) on a mission to save wayward magical creatures (such as the city’s largely homeless vampire population), an interdimensional overly licentiousness demon, and that impossibly old man who originally owned the stone and who now desperately wants it back.
And did I mention the steroid freak enforcer who has a shark-toothed pet midget on a leash? Yeah, there’s that too. Oh, and Sunday gets killed. Kinda. Turns out that Nazi doctor/wizard has been practicing that immortality thing on others in attempt to perfect it, only he hasn’t quite got it down. Now Sunday’s a card-carrying member of the undead, one who needs to feed every 24 hours, give or take, in order to stay alive… or undead, as the case may be.
You’d think at this point putting a fresh spin on the zombie/magic genres would be hard to do, but Blackmoore has done it with such ease one wonders if he’s not dipping into a source of magic himself. Considering nearly every character in the book is something other than entirely human, it’s amazing how, well, human Blackmoore has made them. Sunday is more wisecracking hardboiled detective than shambling brain eater, the bruja more prone providing clean needles to vampires than putting curses on people, and even that interdimensional demon is more interested in doing than nasty than being nasty. Indeed, it’s the ordinariness that Blackmoore infuses into the extraordinary that truly makes City of the Lost so magical.
Forget the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, it’s Blackmoore’s supernatural L.A. that I want to visit, with Joe Sunday as my tour guide. Hopefully we’ll all get to do so again in the very near future.
City of the Lost is available from DAW Books (ISBN: 978-0756407025).